You dig out your Bible, ready to spend some quality time with the Lord, only to be slammed with a bunch of overwhelming questions. What am I going to read today? Where should I even start? How do I know what passage God wants me to read today? What should I do if the Scripture passage is confusing or if my quiet time feels discouraging?
Has this ever happened to you? It’s sure happened to me. As Roses, one of the most important things we can do to grow in our relationship with God is spend time in His Word. Psalm 119 encourages us to hide God’s word in our hearts lest we sin against Him. Hebrews 4 tells us that God’s word is alive and active, ready to speak straight to our heart. But how do you actually go about reading Scripture and hiding it in your heart?
God’s word always accomplishes its purpose
“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 NIV
Studying Scripture can feel like an overwhelming task. After all, there are 66 books in the Bible, some containing prophecies, others stories, and still others in the form of letters. Where do you even begin?
One of the most important things to remember as you lean into Scripture is that God’s word always accomplishes its purpose. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s word never returns to Him empty. God is not trying to confuse or trick you when you open your Bible; rather, His desire is that you would know Him through His word.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV
So be encouraged, Rose, that whether you read a Psalm or an epistle, a passage from the Old Testament or New Testament, God’s word is God-breathed, and He is eager to meet you in it. When it does feel overwhelming or confusing, pray! Ask God to give you insight and help you understand His Word.
With that said, let’s get into some of the practical ways to study Scripture on your own. Here are a few of my favorite strategies.
1. Follow a Manageable Reading Plan
Bible study guides and reading plans are super helpful because they provide some structure and accountability to your reading time. They can also be helpful if you’re unsure about where to start reading your Bible. Having what you’re going to read pre-decided already can save a lot of mental energy and help you jump straight into studying Scripture. There are tons of places to find Bible reading plans, including but not limited to Blue Letter Bible and the YouVersion Bible App. Find one that is manageable for you—it may even be fun to have a friend go through a reading plan with you!
Bible reading plans come with varying levels of commitment and intensity. Some take you slowly through one book of the Bible at a time. Others can take you through the whole Bible in a year or even three years. Some may take you through a whole chunk of books at a time, such as all four gospels or a selection of epistles. Some plans even take you through the whole Bible in a month. All these plans are great, and they all may be a great choice for you in different seasons of life. When you begin reading the Bible on your own, choose a plan that is manageable for you that can help you build a habit of reading the Bible consistently.
2. Look at the Background and Context
This helps you understand a passage. When looking for the background and context of a passage, here are some questions to ask:
Who was the intended audience of this passage?
How would the intended audience have understood or interpreted this passage?
Who wrote this passage? What did the author want to communicate?
Are there particular themes in this passage that come up in the rest of the book?
Study Bibles and commentaries are great resources when it comes to studying the context. For online resources, Blue Letter Bible and YouVersion Bible App are great for this as well, along with Bible Gateway.
3. Get Curious
Don’t shy away from questions—the more curious you are about the passages you read, the deeper you can dig into those passages. And don’t shy away from the answers—the more you dig into Scripture with an open, curious heart, the more you will discover!
Ask questions that will drive you towards the heart of God. Asking questions such as “What does this passage teach me about God?” will help you seek God and know Him better. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
What does this passage teach you about who God is?
How does this passage point to Jesus?
What might God be saying to me through this passage?
4. Write Down What You’re Learning
What discoveries are you making as you study Scripture? Keep track of those discoveries by writing them down or by highlighting verses in your Bible. That way, you’re able to look back and remember what God is teaching you as you study Scripture.
One of the ways I keep track of what God is teaching me is through highlighting verses in my Bible. I have a color coding system where I highlight verses that describe who God is in pink, promises made in blue, and commands to follow in green. Sometimes I even write little prayers and reflections or prayers in the margins of my Bible, so that when I go back to reread a passage, I can remember what God has been saying to me through it.
The goal of all these Bible reading strategies is to help you grow in relationship with God. Just like any friendship, the intimacy we share with God grows over time. Scripture is one of the primary ways we get to know God, so when we study Scripture we come to know God more and more. Remember, Rose, that when you seek God you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), so as you read Scripture be encouraged that God wants to meet you!
Malaya Gaboury is a native New Yorker who loves Jesus, coffee, books, and theater. As a teen herself, she firmly believes that God is actively working in her generation and that no one is too young to have a big life with God. Connect with Malaya through her blog.